Alphabetically Cornered as a Paradox

by Chinelo Osakwe '23

          I’m in this box, right, and it’s just, I just, you know? It’s not even a cube, no, no, not a cube, but just this two-dimensional, seven-by-five-inch box where I can, well, I can sort of hear my breathing, you know? The sounds just bounce back, back and forth, reverberation singing vehemently, turning intonation into insulting cacophony. The alleged beauty of breath, as well as the act of breathing, is the insinuation that it symbolizes life, as well as the act of living. These same people that inform Us, me, that inform me about what life is and what it is supposed to mean are the same ones that, well, that write poetic stanzas quoting, “And she took her last breath of air, and I cried my next tears...” And I cannot, I, I just cannot comprehend this paradox humankind has molded and modeled for me. I just cannot do it. When I read poems like this, they remind me why I am in this box, why I am this one-shape, austere, vibrant collection of four corners.

          I begin to hear a ticking and I, I question whether this disruptive cadence has escaped from the spherical clock, hunched against the reception wall, or whether it is just simply. My corners. Finding themselves in dispute.

          The voices are loud, so loud!

          But see, this, this is all breathing, a lot of breathing. Inanimate or zoetic, it is all distraction, the biting of my nails as I taste peeling and cracking skin. How mortifying an activity. Chewing on a breathing matter to comfort myself? Why, how selfish an activity. I immediately halt my antics since I cannot behave like Them.

          Them. They.

          We? Us?

          So much segregation in Our language. I am in utter shock, how discrimination has contrived a path onto our tongues, which We, They, Us, Them use to speak, leaving me in disbelief.

          I, I am just in disbelief. I, well, I don’t even have the words to explain how much disbelief I am in.

          Are you in disbelief?

          Such incredulity.

          Dubiety awakens.

          I find myself organizing the magazines smiling at me on a table: Vogue, and National Geographic, and People. I bet They are so friendly in person. Alphabetically: By author, then company, then title. Color coordinated: Rainbow by the background, then by the title. Preference: Company, then subject. Series: Also, and always, alphabetical. How satisfying a vocation, oh, how satisfying. The world is at peace. It rotates on its axis.

          Corners aligned. Ticking ceased.

          But why isn’t she out yet? Tension disembarks in my arteries, which I find to be rather inconvenient and disrespectful since this results in tension both entering and exiting my heart, pumping out to the rest of my body through my purple veins, implying this notorious tension intruded from the outer-atmosphere of the psychologist's waiting room, meaning I had to have breathed it in.

          Shame, shame, shame for such an elegant motion.

          Where is she, my mother, the birth-giver—correction, the, well, the shape-giver—imagine that! Going to visit your mother and telling her you are conceiving a... a box?

          Shame, shame, shame for such an elegant motion!

          As I giggle in a distraught manner, magazines in order but chairs set unevenly apart, clock hunched, the clock is hunched, the clock is hunched, how does one even create such a sight?! My mother walks through a door, headed toward me with a lady.

          Almost like in the magazines. Paper. Paper-Lady. Origami smile. Unevenly cut. Ragged edges.

          I sit on my hands so my mother does not have to bear witness to my dead skin, and my bickering corners, and my suffered breathing, and my alphabetical, by author, then company, then title, because it is not her fault that They, They, or We, concocted a box, no, no not her fault at all. No, no.

          Quite ironically, Paper-Lady hands me a paper, and rather than reading the foolish, manmade words, “OCD And How To Deal With It,” I notice. The one task.

          The only, abstrusely simple task. Someone is paid. To do.

          Three sheets of paper, paper, paper from a Paper-Lady, exhale diagonally, vertically, horizontally, all cacophony and reverberation, chaotic tranquility. I, I just, well, I, it, she, I could have sworn these three pieces of paper were stapled by a three-year-old...

          Incompetence... is shameful. Shame, shame, shame. No elegance, just shame.